Twenty or thirty years ago, no one would have thought children literature as a distinct genre. In the early times – besides fables, folk tales
The Origin of Children Literature
The origin of children literature lies in the long tradition of folk tales, mythologies and fables in different cultures and countries. East, West, Middle East and Africa, everywhere there is an overwhelming presence of such kind of literature. Aesop, a slave who is believed to have lived in Greece around 5th century BCE, and Phaedrus, a Roman slave dating back to first century AD, were wonderful fabulists. It is believed Aesop’s fables were written by Phaedrus for the Hellenic world.
Panchatantra or Five Discourses is a book of fables very popular in India and Nepal. It is believed that the fables in Panchatantra were created by a fabulist hired by a king in India, in 4th or 5th century AD, to teach his sons.
Shahrazad (Scheherazade) tells one thousand fables, fairy tales and folklores in the Arabian Nights. The exact date and the author are unknown and the earliest reference to the Arabian Nights is the 9th century text.
Understanding a Child’s Mind
- Human beings are anthropomorphic by nature, even more the children. Children see themselves as animals and animals as themselves. (Think about Spiderman and Batman)
- Children love improbable, they love to read about larger than life events and admire larger than life characters.
- Children also love to glorify the people they admire, add intricacies to the events they fancy. They weave the tales in their minds
Hans Christian Anderson (1805-1875) and Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786-1859) popularly called Grimm Brothers are best known for the tales they collected in Denmark and Germany.
The modern children literature makes use of the elements devised by Aesop, Phaedrus, Panchatantra, Shahrazad, Anderson and Grimm Brothers. Fables and folk tales may look childish in a surface glance but they reveal human weakness and wickedness. These incredible stories contain biting satire, humor, ethics and morality. Fantasy and adventure, the two basic themes in modern children literature, were burrowed from folktales, fairytales, fables and mythologies.
The early books such as Don Quixote by Cervantes (1615), Gulliver’s Travel by Jonathan Swift (1726), Trip Around the Moon by Jules Verne (1870), Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886) by R. L. Stevenson were not apparently written for juvenile readers. Now abridged and simplified versions of David Copperfield and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1835-1910) are considered good readings for children.
At present writers for children are proliferating; however, very few find success. Writing for children is more difficult than writing for adults. It is easy for an adult writer to understand his/her peer, but very difficult to fathom a child’s mind.
How to Write Children Literature
- Reading age of children can be categorized into four groups: 2-3 years, 4-6 years, 7-10 years and 11-15 years. A writer for children must understand the needs of each age.
- Children’s needs and interests differ according to their age group. As a writer for children, you have to vary content, form and style of your writing according to the necessity of each age group.
- Children love fantasy and adventure. They love to escape from the realities of life into the world of magic and miracle. However, the children writer must also transmit ethics and morality in his works.
- Language, tone and style dictate success or failure of children literature. Children writer must be careful about vocabulary, sentence structure and grammatical correctness. He/she should always avoid verbiage and cut artistic words.
- Text must be accompanied by pictures and illustrations. When there are pictures, children will become interested to read the text.
- Children live in a fantastic world of their own as well as the world described in the stories. Even though the writer may write about improbabilities, he/she must introduce history, geography, science and general knowledge in their works.
- Children literature is not only a source of entertainment but also a medium to transmit moral and social values. While entertaining a child, children literature must deliver lessons for the readers.
Content for Children Literature According To Age Groups
|2-3 years||Pictures book about flowers, plants, animals etc.||Colorful illustrations and photos, very little text|
|4-6 years||Fables, fairy tales, myths, legends||Lots of pictures, short and simple sentences|
|7-10 years||Real life stories, stories from mythologies, anthropomorphic stories, moral stories, science fiction||Simple language accompanied by suitable pictures, humor, pun, rhyming words, alliteration.|
|11-15 years||Adventure, fantasy, history, geography, general knowledge, science, inspirational stories about real persons and events, stories about heroic characters||Text balanced with short and long sentences, suitable pictures and illustrations, avoiding verbiage and artistic words|
Writing for Children: Points to Remember
- Children like to read as well as to be read. They not only love words but also the pictures.
- Children use their imagination to build the story in their mind.
- Children are very eager by nature. Their hunger for knowledge is insatiable.
- Adventure, fantasy, slapstick humour, interesting and dangerous situation make children want to know what happens next.
- Ethic, morality, science, history, geography, and general knowledge can be introduced into children literature.
- There is a distinction between writing for boys and writing for girls.
- A good children book helps a child to develop socially, morally and spiritually.
- A story does not interest a child until he/she is able to identify with the main characters.
Best Examples of Children Literature
Children literature refers to something written for children or written by children. If you want to learn how to write for children, you have to read children literature thoroughly. You can learn the craft of children literature by reading books for/by children.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
According to the Time magazine, The Diary of a Young Girl is a runner up for the best non-fiction book of the 20th century. Anne Frank was a Jewish Girl who died in Belsen Concentration Camp near Hanover, Germany, in 1945, at the age of 16. Before the Nazis caught her and her family, she lived in a warehouse in Amsterdam, where she recorded her experiences, frustrations, pain and sufferings in her diary. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is a required reading in many schools around the world.
Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo
Children Book From the Author
Written by Vinaya Ghimire and Illustrated by Sannel Larson, Amazing Alphabet is an alphabet storybook for the children between the age of 3-6 years. Amazing Alphabet aims to teach alphabet to the kids while making the learning fun and interesting.
Which is difficult?
- Writing for children
- Writing for adult